WINTON — Hertford County’s sixth-largest employer will close next year following the U.S. government’s decision not rebid its contract.

The private prison firm GEO Group Inc. announced Monday that the Federal Bureau of Prisons will not rebid the contract for Rivers Correctional Facility in Winton when it expires March 31.

In a news release, GEO Group Inc. CEO George C. Zoley attributed the bureau’s announcement to a decline in prison populations.

“Federal prison populations in the United States have experienced a decline, more recently as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “We expect to market the Rivers Correctional Facility to other federal and state agencies.”

The public-private venture was Hertford County’s sixth-largest employer as of January, employing between 250 and 499 workers, according to N.C. Department of Commerce data.

“We have operated the Rivers Correctional Facility under a public-private partnership with the Federal Bureau of Prisons for over 20 years,” Zoley said in the release.

Hertford County officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

Located in Winton, Rivers Correctional Facility was built to house adult male inmates convicted of felonies in the District of Columbia jurisdiction, according to GEO Group’s website,

That’s because the National Capital Revitalization Act of 1997 ruled that felons convicted within the District be housed in privately-run, contracted facilities, according to the website.

“Over the last two decades, our employees have delivered high quality services, helping Washington, D.C. residents at the Rivers Correctional Facility to achieve successful rehabilitation and community re-entry outcomes,” Zoley said.

Zoley was referring to GEO’s Continuum of Care program, which provides inmates of the low-security prison with job skills training, educational opportunities and other rehabilitative options to help prepare them to gain employment when released.

The Bureau of Prisons signed a contract with GEO Group in March 2000, and in 2015 the bureau renewed its current contract with GEO Group, according to the website.

Rivers Correctional Facility can house up to 1,450 inmates and its contract with the bureau generates roughly $43 million a year, according to the news release.

GEO Group’s website describes the prison as occupying 347,155 square feet spread over nearly 260 acres. Its campus includes four housing units, recreational areas, and additional buildings for programs, prison industries and administration.

A person listed as GEO Group’s executive vice president of corporate relations couldn’t be reached Wednesday at the phone number listed on the company’s website.